As the trailing spouse, you spend a lot of time settling the family into your new location. Hubby starts work and starts travelling, kids start school and activities and you run around like a mad thing for the first year making sure everyone’s needs are met. It takes a while before you have time to invest in yourself and despite the perceived glamour of an international relocation, the experience can be quite a lonely one.
But everyone’s in the same boat – isolated from family and friends, and seeking support. So when you do make some friends, the relationships become quite strong, quite quickly.
Before we left Australia, my husband put me in touch with a colleague’s wife (“T”) who helped me find a hospital to have my baby in. When you’re heavily pregnant, unable to work and not particularly mobile, it’s difficult to get yourself out there and meet people, so T was really the only person in Holland I knew for quite some time.
When my daughter was five weeks old, my husband had to fly off on a work trip. The night he flew out was the night my daughter stopped breathing. I resuscitated her and when I rang for an ambulance, I was so upset I couldn’t make myself understood – I didn’t enough Dutch to communicate the situation and the operator couldn’t understand my English. The only person I knew was T. Thankfully she was home and able to drive us to the hospital. The help and support T provided during this period – after only knowing me for a few months – was incredible and ten years on, she remains a good friend of mine.
So this is what I’ve been telling the kids – that the friendships you make are intense and they will last if you keep investing in them. Staying in touch despite the distance is terribly important and the occasional letter, email or chat over Skype works wonders in keeping the relationships alive.
Over the years, we’ve had friends move back home and we always try and catch up when we’re there. It’s been great to see the kids pick up where they left off a year ago and understand that even though another year will pass before they see each other again, that they’ll always be friends.
That said, it’s never easy saying goodbye.